Cinnaminson, NJ, January 21st
Back in early 2017, health officials from the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Health released the results of an investigation at a shipyard in Wisconsin. The investigation looked into occupational exposures to lead. Of the 233 shipyard workers tested for exposure, 171 had elevated levels of lead in their blood according to media reports. Lead is one of several toxic heavy metals that workers retrofitting old ships may encounter.
Just recently, a settlement was announced with more than 60 of the shipyard workers. The settlement avoids a jury trial that was set to begin in December and will pay the workers $7.5 million dollars. The shipyard has also reportedly enacted a safety program that involves personal protective equipment (PPE) for its employees to prevent future exposures to lead.
In addition to shipyard workers, there are many other occupations that could also put workers at risk of lead exposure. Lead is still used today and can often be found combined with other metals to produce alloys. Lead and lead alloys are used to make a number of products, including batteries, ammunition and other metal products. In the past, lead was also used regularly in paints, ceramics, caulk, pipes and solder to name some of the materials that could still pose a risk to workers today that come in contact with these materials.
To help educate workers and employers about lead exposure risks, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides the following information about potential occupational exposures:
- Workers can be exposed by breathing-in lead fumes or lead dust. Lead fumes may be produced during metal processing, when metal is being heated or soldered. Lead dust is produced when metal is being cut or when lead paint is sanded or removed. Lead fumes and lead dust do not have an odor, so workers may not know they are being exposed.
- Lead dust can settle on food, water, clothes and other objects. If a worker eats, drinks or smokes in areas where lead is being processed or stored, they could ingest it. Not washing hands before eating or touching one’s mouth are also ways it could be ingested.
- Workers can also be exposed by coming into contact with lead dust. Some studies have found lead can be absorbed through skin. Workers that handle lead and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth, could be exposed. Lead dust can also get on clothes and hair.
“If regulations meant to protect workers are not followed, or if workers have no idea they are being exposed to lead, they and even their families could be at risk,” said Joe Frasca, Senior Vice President, Marketing at EMSL Analytical, Inc. “In the case of the shipyard, the Minnesota Department of Health did indeed warn families that they too could have been exposed due to lead dust carried home on the work clothes, shoes, skin and hair of their family members that worked at the business. To protect workers and families from lead hazards, and to help keep companies in regulatory compliance, EMSL offers environmental and industrial hygiene testing services for lead and other heavy metals. EMSL also offers sampling supplies and a wide range of PPE.”
EMSL has sponsored an educational video about lead exposure risks in the work environment that can be seen at https://youtu.be/9Xcns9ZY_bo. To learn more about lead or other occupational, environmental, health and safety testing services, please visit www.EMSL.com, call (800)220-3675 or email info@EMSL.com.
About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is one of the leading testing laboratories with over 46 locations throughout the United States and Canada. EMSL is a nationally recognized and locally focused provider specializing in fast laboratory results for mold, bacteria, Legionella, USP <797>, pathogens, asbestos, lead, soot, char & ash from fires, VOC’s, odors, radon, formaldehyde, indoor air quality, microbiology, environmental, industrial hygiene, radiological, food, beverage & consumer products and material testing services for the identification of unknown substances. EMSL services both professionals and the general public. EMSL maintains an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations as well as state and federal regulating bodies including, but not limited to A2LA, AIHA LAP, LLC. (AIHA EMLAP, AIHA IHLAP, AIHA ELLAP), NVLAP, CDC ELITE, CPSC, CA ELAP, NY ELAP, TX DOH, NJDEP and multiple other state accrediting agencies. Please visit our website at www.EMSL.com for a complete listing of accreditations. In addition, EMSL carries a wide range of Sampling Equipment and Investigative Products for environmental professionals.